Many people find that they have inherited a stamp collection or in some other way become the owner of a stamp collection and they do not know what to do with it. You would be surprised to know how many people have bought an old house and have found that an old stamp collection came with it. There are many options available to you if you have a stamp collection and you don’t know what to do with it. Bob Ingraham from the Stamporama.com stamp club has written an excellent article that outlines many of the option that are available to you. You can read Bob’s article by clicking here.
But what you really want to know is, how do you get an idea of what your stamp collection is really worth? The following are a few options that we would like to give you, some of which Bob Ingraham has referred to in his article referred to above.
Take your collection to a trusted stamp dealer/auction house
If you have a considerable collection, in a number of albums, you could take it a trusted stamp dealer or auction house. We at the Northern Philatelic Society and Library often work with Golden Valley Stamp Auctions. If you approach them they will give you one 15-20 minute quick review and provide a valuation. For $75/hour they will give you a formal appraisal, which means an itemized value of each stamp in the collection. They will also give you an idea as to whether it would be worthwhile placing your collection in their auction.
Do a rough estimate of the collection valuation yourself
When starting to work out the value of a stamp collection, the first thing that you need is a stamp catalog. We at the Northern Philatelic Library can make one available to you or you can use an online stamp catalog such as https://stampworld.com. I use Stampworld.com to catalog my own stamp collection. I find it does a fine job of providing an accurate inventory and valuation of my stamp collection.
So, now you have access to a stamp catalog. Start looking at your stamps in groupings either by country or by country and time period. Select a bunch of stamps and look them up in your catalog. You will probably find that overall, your stamps within the grouping that you are looking at have a similar catalog value. Take a general average catalog value of the stamps that you have selected to examine. Now, take a rough count of the number of stamps that you have in the grouping that you are looking at (country or country/period). Multiple your rough count by the general average catalog value that you calculated above and you have a rough idea of the catalog value of the grouping (country or country/period) that you are looking at. I keep a spreadsheet that has a row for each country that I collect and the catalog value that Stampworld.com gives me. This enables me to easily calculate the total catalog value of my collection, which I find a fun statistic to keep.
Once you have calculated the value of your collection or the grouping that you are looking at, you have to understand that catalog value is not real value. Depending on how you end up selling your stamps, the real value that you will get from the sale will probably be 10-30% of the calculated catalog value. Sad, I know after all the work that you have put in to get the catalog value, but you will probably find that is the situation. Very few stamp collectors make any money from their collection. The real value of the stamp collection to the collector is in the collecting and the enjoyment of sharing the hobby with other collectors, not in the value of the stamps.
Use eBay as an aid to determine the value of your group of stamps
This suggestion is similar to the one above but rather than use a stamp catalog you can use eBay to get an idea of the value of your stamps. The difference here is that you are looking at the real value of what sellers are selling stamps similar to those that you possess. You are best to look at the value that lots sold for, rather than what sellers are asking. So if you chose to sell your stamps on eBay you could expect to get a similar value for your stamps as those that you see on eBay. Don’t forget, eBay charges substantial fees for selling stamps on their site.
Another option open to you
Another option available to you is to donate the collection to the Northern Philatelic Society which would go toward helping support the work of the Northern Philatelic Library. In return we can give you a receipt which you can use to claim the donation on your taxes. Please note, the receipt that we give in acknowledgement of your gift to the Northern Philatelic Society will not place a value on your gift. Based on your stamp research and in consultation with your tax advisor, you will decide on the value of your donation.